By The Rev.Eugene N. Wright Deacon
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. Please be seated.
Most of us here today are familiar with the Beatitudes…….. a part of the great sermon on the mount as narrated by Matthew in chapters 5-7. The account by Matthew is set on a mountain, in a spiritual nature and is asking us to explore our relationship with God. In Luke’s gospel which we just heard, the sermon is preached on the plains on level ground. Here we are being asked or challenged to honestly look at the relationship and values we place on living in relationship with one another, here on earth. Luke’s gospel wants us to realize that when we come into God’s presence and experience God’s gift of grace that we receive in our relationship with Jesus that it is not simply a restoration of our spiritual relationship with God. Luke wants us to realize that through our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, we have already become members of God’s kingdom, here on earth. As a result, Jesus comes down from the mountain, to the plain, the level place, where everyday concerns of people living in our world might be addressed. Jesus preaches the grace of God and he expresses it in ways that lets us know that God cares for us. Jesus does what He can to bring the kingdom of God into our midst, with loving compassion for those who are poor and who are hungry in this life. Jesus wants us to not only be concerned about our spiritual relationship with God, but to know that through Christ’s death and resurrection we have the assurance of God’s promise of life eternal in his kingdom. He also wants us to realize that in God’s kingdom, the things that we value as we live in the various societies on earth, may not be the values that will govern God’s kingdom. In fact, Jesus indicates in this sermon, that in God’s kingdom, the things that we value on earth may be the opposite of what God would have us aspire to. Jesus is saying that God cares for the poor, for the hungry, for those who are sad and mourning, for all those persons whom society, especially ours, tend to neglect and forget in pursuit of success. Jesus is saying that in God’s kingdom, what we value in society will be turned upside down. For God has concern for each and every one whom he has created, especially those in need. In this passage we are being called to live today, as members of God’s kingdom. We are being called to pattern our lives after Jesus, who not only spent time discerning the relationship with God, and following in His Fathers will, but also cared and ministered to people in need, especially those whom we often ignore. This passage from Luke, the list of woes that Jesus proclaims, is not meant to be a list of things that we as Christians need to avoid in order to gain access to God’s kingdom. He is not asking us to be poor and hungry in order to merit a life in God’s kingdom. Rather, Jesus is saying that those whom our society regards as being successful, those who have made the grade, and have achieved success according to our society, may have a hard time realizing that in God’s kingdom, their earthly status is of no avail. They will no longer enjoy the prestige of their earthly wealth or position, for they will be on an even basis with the poor, the hungry, and those whom they have long ignored. Where do we experience God’s presence the most in the world? It is not in the good times, the easy times, or the times when we are blind to the pain within and around us. Rather, the best chance to experience God’s presence is in those moments of personal brokenness when somebody reaches out and touches us and says, “God is with you. God understands. Jesus has been where we are. He has had doubts, uncertainties and fear. He had no home to call his own and no friends he could really count on. He wept and cried and got angry too and God the Father was with him all those times, strengthening him and giving him the victory – and God will do the same thing in you and me by grace through faith.” The truth is, we have all fallen short of what it means to belong to the kingdom of God, but that through Christ’s death and resurrection, we can know God’s forgiveness. My friends, God can work with us. God can accomplish something for us, and in us, and through us, when we are open to him in our need. What God cannot deal with because we do not let God deal with it is our plastic smiles, our blithe ignorance, our self-righteousness and our couldn’t care less attitudes toward those who are in need around us.
Happiness — or Blessedness as in this passage, is not found in wealth, in three square meals a day, in mindless laughter, or in the good opinions that others may have of us. Blessedness is found in surrender. It is found in letting go. It is found in knowing that God really cares about us and that God is really present with us to meet our needs. It is found in knowing that God will vindicate all those who cling to Him. In the midst of those needs — cling to God and not to the god of material success, or the god of self –reliance or the god of blind happiness. Blessedness is found in trusting in God and in doing the works of God, the works of loving, caring, healing, sharing and forgiving.
Blessed are those who are rooted in faith and who share what they have, materially and spiritually with others. Blessed are those who know their need, and who trust in God and follow in God’s way, for they are like trees planted by streams of water. Their leaves do not wither and in all they do they prosper.
When the standard of the world guide us, we will have great woe. But when we let God determine who we are, we will be greatly blessed. When we let our looks, our poverty, our hunger, our sadness, or our lack of popularity be the final word about the meaning and significance of our lives, we will be in hopelessness and despair. But when we let the kingdom of God have the final word about the meaning and significance of our lives, we will have true joy and know without a doubt that we are blessed by God.
In this passage from Luke, God turns everything upside down. You know when God turns something upside down, God is really making it right side up. What does this list of blessings and woes say about what God is about? It says that what is considered important for many people in the world; wealth, having plenty of food, being happy and looking good and being liked is dismissed by God as unimportant. In fact, Jesus indicates that if these are your goals in life, if this is what is important to you, then you are living a dangerous life. A life that could very well affect your salvation. What many people consider unimportant and unworthy, God considers special and important. When Jesus began to teach the crowd about the kingdom of heaven, it wasn’t necessary to look very far to discover the needs of their lives. They did not have to imagine what it was to be poor, and to hunger and thirst. These were very present realities. They knew the difference between needs and wants, between necessities and luxuries. So, when Jesus linked together hunger and thirst with righteousness, he was telling the people that righteousness is not a luxury, it is a necessity. In the same way that our physical life depends upon food and water; our spiritual life depends upon righteousness. Scripture tells us that what is true of our body is also true of our soul. So, let me ask you this morning. “what are the hungers in your life?” “What are the longings that you yearn to have satisfied?” If those desires are outside of the will of God for your life, then to try to satisfy them by oneself, will only bring disappointment and pain. But if they are part of the will of God, then to satisfy them will bring joy, growth, and fulfillment. Jesus not only tells us about our hunger and thirst, but he also tells us how we can be satisfied. He tells us that the way to be filled is to hunger and thirst after righteousness. It is a hunger for holiness that fills the soul and satisfies our spiritual needs. So, what is righteousness? To the Pharisees, righteousness meant a strict conformity to a long list of rules; actually,613 of them!! But Matthew 5:20 tells us….” That unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” External piety, born out of pride, which seeks the praise of others, isn’t holiness, its hypocrisy. True righteousness is a matter of the heart. To be righteous means to be right with God, right with self, and right with others. We have to Train ourselves to be Godly and it will bring a remarkable change in our lives, and We can achieve this remarkable change through Christ. I believe that God is a God of love and that the church is God’s agency where this love is available. Isn’t it interesting that when people are in trouble or in need that the first place they turn to is the church, Why? How do you react when you see someone asking for help? Or when someone asks you for help? Remember the people who cross your path are the people God has put in your life so they can experience His love through you. So as disciples of Jesus Christ, we should not be concerned about peoples motives for coming to Jesus or the church. Why does God bless the poor, hungry, the weeping and people who are hated or spoken ill of, and says woe to those who are rich, satisfied, laughing and are well liked and spoken well of? Because God’s love and blessing are clearer when we need to rely on him more. When we fill our lives with our own importance with what we have and can achieve then its all too easy to push God aside and out of the picture and trick ourselves into believing how good we are. However, our values and way of life formed by Jesus will at times conflict with the values and way of life that the world attempts to form us into adopting. So when you see someone who is poor, hungry, crying or having their name drag through the mud, then get beside them. Show them God’s love. Be God’s light in their life because this is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. In the faith of Christ Jesus, be blessed. Christ be with you always.